Archives by Day

May 2021

Little Nightmares II

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Tarsier Studio
Release Date: Feb. 11, 2021

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PC Review - 'Little Nightmares II'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 9, 2021 @ 7:00 a.m. PST

Little Nightmares II is a suspense-adventure game in which you play as Mono, a young boy trapped in a world that has been distorted by the humming transmission of a distant tower.

Tarsier Studios' sequel to Little Nightmares is a morbidly twisted puzzle-platformer that made me appreciate the subtle craft of psychological horror in creating a dense and tangible atmosphere. Little Nightmares II masterfully creates a world that feels real with an oppressive atmosphere that I have rarely experienced to this degree in any game. Alas, the game was over so quickly that it feels like most of its qualities did not shine as brightly as they could have.

If you're familiar with Little Nightmares, the sequel delivers a familiar yet slightly different experience. As with the first game, we control a child in an oppressive world that's full of monsters and preys upon the weak. We followed the girl Six aboard a creepy ship in the previous entry, so LM2 takes us to the mainland in the shoes of a little boy named Mono. We begin in a creepy forest, where Mono frees Six from a taxidermist who kept her imprisoned in his cabin. From that point on, you control Mono and Six is a companion, although there is no co-op in the game. Mono also has a connection with TVs, as the journey takes the duo toward a broadcast tower in the distance.

LM2 deepens the lore and world the game is set in, although never in straightforward ways. It's not immediately clear if LM2 is a sequel or prequel to the prior game, but there references and environmental storytelling help the story fit into the larger context. We won't go into plot details, but the title successfully spins an unpredictable tale that leaves a few things up to interpretation and leaves some questions unanswered.

LM2 is a side-scrolling puzzle platformer with some hide-and-seek stealth elements. Mono and Six must carefully traverse the environment, since they are small children and everything is dangerous. Each stage has enemies and a boss encounter, and Mono and Six must hide under tables or other objects to remain undetected and escape. Sometimes, you must survive adrenaline-pumping escape sequences to get away. A lot of the gameplay, including the stealth passages, are physics-based, trial-and-error segments. The game world is littered with hazards that are easy to overlook, so be prepared to watch Mono die some gruesome deaths.

The biggest change in gameplay in the sequel is the addition of combat, which is a minor part of the experience, so don't expect elaborate boss fights or fleshed-out combat mechanics. Whereas Six was always on the run in the first game, Mono can engage in some minor combat when required. He can pick up axes, hammers, and pipes in the environment to either break through objects or break some heads. It's not a mechanic that sees frequent use until the end, but it does create a few tense moments. Given Mono's size and strength, it's not easy to wield a hammer that's as large as him, so combat is a slow and draining endeavor. Mono can hit enemies, but it takes time to recover while enemies perform telegraphed attacks to kill you. The combat creates tension due to its inherent clunkiness, and it mixes things up a bit.

Puzzles have remained the same in principle and mostly cover familiar ground. Move a few objects here, get a key there, get something heavy to drop on a cracked floor tile, hack through a cracked door with an ax — you get the idea. Puzzles get more interesting near the very end, and that feels like a missed opportunity. It's not a difficult game, and there is an obvious way to solve most puzzles.

Everything in LM2 feels more elaborate and polished when directly compared to the first entry, and that begins with the interactions that Mono and Six share. While Mono is the undisputed protagonist and may venture forth without Six in some areas, Six is always there to help by providing a leg up to switches or ledges, and she can catch you when jumping over wider gaps. She may help carry items to unlock the path forward, and she genuinely feels helpful without being a burden. They also speak to each other in short sentences, call for each other, and hold hands, which is an endearing amount of human interaction in this cruel environment. The chemistry and understanding felt very real throughout the game's scenarios.

The first two major stages, the school and the hospital, were standouts for me. Every moment feels tense because LM2 is incredibly effective at taking mundane scenarios and twisting them into uncomfortable moments of dread. There are a lot of things that factor into how LM2 creates those moments, and the Claymation, Tim-Burton-inspired world feels incredibly real in the way it is constructed and presented.

The audio and visuals do the heavy lifting in LM2. There are nuances and details to every sound and event: bare feet shuffling over creaky wood floors, chalk screeching on the blackboard, and screams in the distance. In combat, the sound is gritty and visceral in all the right ways, as a hammer audibly scrapes across the uneven floor behind you, and then shatters a porcelain head into tiny pieces.

LM2 is the most atmospheric title I have played in quite a while, so it's difficult to step away from the game once you start down its dark and winding path. Most of the unease that the title evokes isn't a visual feat but in the audio that makes the world come to life in the most unsettling ways. The soundtrack complements the otherwise excellent sound design and does so in several good ways. Expect a lot of white noise or silent hums that frame rather than push the events unfolding on-screen. Combined with the creatively morbid visuals, LM2 achieves an astounding level of atmosphere. It does not rely on cheap jump-scares and instead goes with a subtler, immersive route to horror. Imagery, situations, and actions speak much louder than shallow scares and create a more meaningful and haunting experience.

Overall, LM2 is a more ambitious title than the original. It steps up the presentation and game design in many areas, while keeping the core intact. LM2 is also a significantly longer experience and is twice the length of the first, but that still means it is on the shorter side. In our first playthrough, the five chapters took about five hours. I appreciate the shorter runtime since the game doesn't overstay its welcome or retread the same content, but that also means that the more interesting puzzle designs and gameplay don't get as much time to breathe and unfold in other interesting ways. It feels more curated than recycled, and once you're done, you're likely done for good. Aside from collectibles, like new hats for Mono to wear, there isn't much reason to replay the title.

One further disclaimer I want to point out is Bandai Namco's marketing leading up to Little Nightmares. Having watched/played much of the previously released footage and demos, the game didn't offer that much more surprises. Some of my highlights mentioned previously were largely contained in its marketing coverage, so your ability to jump into the game without that knowledge will likely enhance your enjoyment manifold. Based on that and the significantly higher asking price compared to the first entry make this one a bit of a harder sell to me personally.

Little Nightmares II is a gem of a game that successfully builds on everything that made the first one great. It's a short but well-polished and atmospheric horror-platformer that oozes with creepy charm. While its core physics-based platformer gameplay hasn't seen many radical changes, the setting, storytelling, and world-building alone make it worth experiencing. If you're a fan of the first entry or the likes of Limbo or Inside, LM2 is well worth the adventure … if you dare.

Score: 8.6/10

More articles about Little Nightmares II
blog comments powered by Disqus